ON THE NATURE OF HUMAN ROMANTIC INTERACTIONS
The meticulousness of science and mathematics is applied to the mysteries of love in Iagnemma's debut collection, which features eight complex, multilayered stories in which protagonists try to balance the demands of the heart against their need for rational, orderly thinking. The title story introduces a young academic who tries to formulate a series of mathematical equations he can use to force his willful, libidinous girlfriend to make a commitment to him. Some of the stories are period pieces. In "The Phrenologist's Dream," a 19th-century phrenologist falls in love with a former female client who seduces him and then makes off with his valuable set of skulls. In "Zilkowski's Theorem," a pair of Boston mathematicians vie for the attention of the same woman, then end up betting their professional future on the outcome of a Red Sox game. An idealistic, creative young couple find their dreams humorously compromised in "The Confessional Approach," one of the few stories that abandons the science theme; impending poverty forces the couple to sell the woman's finely crafted wooden mannequins to the owner of a shooting range, where they become targets for gun hobbyists. Elegant, witty and concise, Iagnemma's stories precisely capture the hopelessly imprecise nature of love. (May 6)
Forecast:Iagnemma, a research scientist in mechanical engineering at MIT, has won the Paris Review Discovery award for best first fiction and was anthologized in The Best American Short Stories 2002. The novel appeal of a scientific approach to love is bound to attract readers, and Iagnemma's polymathic accomplishments may make him an appealing interview subject.